Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Bach - Trinity Sunday

Today is Trinity Sunday, and so starts the long Trinity stretch in the liturgical calendar, sandwiched between the two major church festival periods - Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter/Pentecost.  There's nothing celebratory in this long stretch, no events to commemorate, so the Trinity season is used for teaching the basic tenets of the church. 

Of course, it does start off with one celebration - Trinity Sunday, announcing the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church. Bach wrote a number of cantatas for this day, but for me one stands out in particular, BWV 129, Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott (Praised be the Lord, my God) from 1727. It's a chorale cantata, based around the hymn of the same name, and as is usual for Bach's chorale cantatas it gets pretty grand. But as Simon Crouch points out, it's somehow condensed, sort of a chorale cantata in miniature:
Cantata BWV 129 is a chorale cantata based on a hymn by Johannes Olearius with melody by anonymous. It's a lovely little work. Everything is in miniature, even the festal opening and closing choruses, and I can't help thinking that Bach, had he wished to, could have built something really substantial out of this. As befits Trinity Sunday, the cantata is introduced with the sound of trumpets and drums in the grand opening movement. The heart of the cantata comprises three arias in a row, one each for bass, soprano and alto respectively. None of them is outstandingly memorable but each of them is finely crafted, elegant music. Most notable, perhaps, are the accompaniments: Continuo only in the bass aria; flute and violin in the soprano aria and oboe d'amore in the alto aria. The second is my favourite of these three. The cantata closes in a joyous mood with an elaborate but spacious orchestral setting of the chorale, prominently featuring the trumpet and drums again.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.
For today's post I've chosen a lovely performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!


Photo © 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

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